10 million children in Mideast to get polio vaccine: UN

Millions of children in the Middle East will be vaccinated against polio this month after the crippling disease resurfaced in conflict-hit Syria, the United Nations said Sunday.

Mass vaccinations have already been launched in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Syria, while a similar campaign in Lebanon will start on March 9, the UN Children's Fund Unicef said in a statement.

"Polio does not respect borders," said Ala Alwan, World Health Organisation regional director for the eastern Mediterranean.

"The detection of polio in Syria is not Syria's problem alone, but one requiring a regional response. The safety of across the Middle East relies on us being able to put a stop to polio in Syria."

Preliminary evidence suggests the virus in this outbreak—and also polio samples found in sewage in Egypt, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip—came from Pakistan, one of the disease's last bastions.

The Syrian Ministry of Health said in October that polio had returned to the country for the first time in almost 15 years.

"We need to get two drops of into the mouth of every child under the age of five, regardless of their previous immunisation history, every time there is a campaign," Khouzama al-Rasheed, a medical worker at a health centre in rural Damascus, was quoted as saying in the statement.

Inside Syria, the campaign is targeting 1.6 million children with vaccines against , measles, mumps and rubella,

Seven countries across the Middle East are planning to vaccinate more than 22 million children multiple times over six months, in the region's largest-ever coordinated immunisation plan, said UNICEF.

"To vaccinate so many children in different countries is a huge undertaking," said Maria Calivis, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"Each country faces its own set of challenges in order to make the campaign effective—above all in Syria—but this is the only way we can ensure children across the region are properly protected against this terrible disease."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

UN launches polio vaccination campaign in Mideast

Nov 09, 2013

The United Nations says a massive campaign to vaccinate children in the Middle East against polio has begun after the first cases in 14 years were confirmed in northeastern Syria last week.

Recommended for you

Lebanon reports first suspected case of Ebola

1 hour ago

A Lebanese man who arrived from West Africa is suspected of having Ebola and was quarantined on Thursday in a Beirut hospital, the first such suspected case in the country, Lebanon's health minister said.

New, faster therapeutic hypothermia techniques

1 hour ago

Rapid lowering of body temperature following an acute myocardial infarction (MI) can be an effective therapeutic strategy to minimize damage to the heart muscle caused by the loss and restoration of blood ...

Sri Lanka celebrates two years without malaria

5 hours ago

Sri Lanka has not reported a local case of malaria since October 2012, according to the Sri Lankan Anti-Malarial Campaign. If it can remain malaria-free for one more year, the country will be eligible to apply to the World ...

User comments